Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Riley Wrightsel doesn’t like to talk about Riley Wrightsel.
But if she decided to do so, the Chillicothe High School senior would have plenty to discuss.
Over the past three years, Wrightsel has become a pillar of the Cavaliers’ track and field program. Heading into her senior season, she boasts of three all-league selections, three qualifications into regional competition and a trip to the indoor state meet in the triple jump.
But she doesn’t care about any of that. She only cares to see her team succeed and, if she so happens to find individual success along the way, so be it.
“It was amazing for the girls to win a district title in my sophomore year,” Wrightsel said. “But truly, last year, the family aspect of the boys and girls winning was just incredible. Our coach [Rob Strong] has instilled in all of us that that’s how a track team is supposed to work. It can be an individual sport but we know, as a family, that’s what wins titles. We work for each other.”
Wrightsel is, of course, talking about the Cavaliers’ sweep of the Frontier Athletic Conference championships last spring. She’s hoping her team can repeat those feats in the regular season and has already set goals for the postseason.
“We’re hoping for another league title,” Wrightsel said. “It was awesome that both our girls and boys could get it last year. So I’m looking forward to that. Individually, I want to win the 100 and 200 [meter dashes]. Those are big events. Big for our team as well. State would be amazing. I’ve made it all the way to regionals each year so it’d be great to get to that last step.”
Last season, the Cavaliers’ girls edged out Washington by 8 ½ points to win the FAC title. Wrightsel was a huge help in that endeavor as she helped Chillicothe’s 4×200 and 4×100-meter relay teams win their events — with times of 1:51.58 and 51.60 seconds, respectively — while finishing third in the 100 dash (13.24) and second in the pole vault (8-feet).
But if she had to pick the event that’s her favorite, the 100 takes the cake by a landslide.
“I’ve been running [the 100] since the seventh grade,” Wrightsel said. “The hardest part about it is the blocks. Getting out of those blocks gives you a step above everybody else. That’s something that still sometimes challenges me. So I just have to keep my head down and my body straight. After that, it’s just a breeze. You stop thinking about everything and just run.”
Running is second nature to Wrightsel, who followed her dad around as a kid. That’s where her love for the sport took its origin.
Back then, he had a leg up on her. Now, it’s the other way around.
“My dad grew up running track. I grew up running with him and used to race him as a little kid on the beach,” Wrightsel said, smiling. “He’d beat me for the longest time. Now, I’m finally faster. My parents have played a huge role [in her track career]. I’ve kind of carried on a tradition.”
All those runs in the sand are paying dividends.
As Wrightsel enters her senior season, which begins Saturday at Herrnstein Field when the Cavaliers participate in the annual Fairweather Relays, she’ll do so as one of the team’s unquestioned leaders.
For now, she’s focused on winning another FAC title and making a run — pun intended — at qualifying for the OHSAA State Track and Field Championships in June.
“I really think it’s possible [to make it to state],” Wrightsel said. “It’s really difficult in open events to do that, but if I work really hard, it’s very possible. But we know we all have to work hard to win another conference title. So that’s what we’re focused on doing right now.”